EAPWe have done blogs on disaster recovery, planning for disasters and how to make plans for disaster recovery, but we have not done one about how to deal with that disaster when it is happening. Planning how you are going to recover from a disaster is very important, but knowing how you and your staff are going to react to a disaster when it is actually happening is far more important.

Even if you could know when a disaster was going to happen, you still need to know what you are going to do to stay safe. This is why having an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is so important. How you react during an emergency is made much simpler by having a plan.

What is an Emergency Action Plan or EAP? It is a written document that outlines the procedures that detail the appropriate responses to most types of emergencies that may occur in your office environment. Your EAP is an essential component of your company’s health and safety procedures. It is not just about creating an EAP; it is about training employees on how to follow it. Your EAP can greatly reduce employee injuries, and can ensure the safety of visitors in the event of an emergency. Training existing staff and new staff on where the procedure manual is and how to implement the procedures is key to the success of your EAP. Otherwise you and your staff will be unprepared when you most need to be.

Key components of an EAP are evacuation procedures, escape routes, floor plans and where the safest spot to meet up is – to ensure everyone is accounted for. You should also include in your EAP the emergency contact information for all of your staff. So that means you need to update your EAP every time you hire a new employee. When you are working in an office space that is shared (like an office business centre), you should get a copy of its EAP and include it within yours. If your office space is in a high-rise office building, be sure to find out who the person is that in charge of your floor during an emergency.

In the event of an emergency, people need to respond quickly. You and your staff knowing where to go and how to get there is an important part of a quick response. Depending on the type of emergency, you may need to exit the building as quickly as possible. But it is just as important to know where each person exactly is in the aftermath. While building disasters are rare, other emergencies can arise. Having plans for health-related emergencies such as heart attacks, seizures, concussions and other accidents are also important to include in you EAP. Knowing where or if your office or building has a first aid kit or a portable defibrillator could save a life.

So you have a plan and you know what to do, but who is your designated person to make the emergency call to 911? Most emergencies will probably require the involvement of ambulance, fire and police. Contacting these authorities is usually as easy as dialing 911. With that said, it’s important that someone in your company or the staff of the office space you work in be designated to make that call. Multiple people calling 911 and clogging up their lines will not bring a faster response – and there’s nothing worse than a delayed response because everyone assumed someone else called 911. In addition to alerting the proper authorities by calling 911, it is equally important to communicate to all your staff and visitors that an emergency is occurring. You need to communicate with them that there is an emergency and what they should do. That again is the responsibility of the person designated to implement your company or office EAP.

When it comes to health emergencies, it is important to note that these types emergencies do not require alerting everyone within the office or the building. If an individual suffers a medical emergency like a heart attack, stoke or seizure, there is no need to make everyone in the entire office aware of it. Your EAP for these types of emergencies should be much simpler and only involve immediately contacting medical help and identifying individuals within your organization who are trained in First Aid to help stabilize the victim until help arrives.

After your EAP has been activated, it may be necessary to notify the next of kin of the people involved. Family members may need to be alerted immediately to provide health information. Your EAP should detail who is responsible for alerting family members of health emergencies and what emergencies require alerting families. This is why it is important to maintain up-to-date contact information for all staff members.

Why is it important to train new staffers on your EAP? Because emergencies can occur any time without warning, it is essential to develop a policy to train all new staff on your various EAPs. As part of new employee orientation, you should give them a copy of the company’s EAPs along with where all the emergency exits, escape routes and meet-up points are.

Just like your business plan, it is important to keep your EAP up-to-date. Office changes, remodeling and building changes are just a few reasons to make updates to your EAP. Remember that change is constant in your small business. If you keep your EAP up-to-date, your kob will be easier and less stressful.